A group of UBC students cried "shame on UBC" as they flooded the Board of Governors meeting on Monday afternoon to protest tuition increases.
CUPE 2278 and Climate Justice UBC (CJUBC) coordinated the demonstration as part of Tuition Freeze Now, a union of students, workers, and organizers. Emma Gunn, a CUPE 2278 organizer, detailed the impacts that increased tuition rates would lead to.
“Every year the tuition goes up, there’s less and less working-class students who can afford to go here,” said Gunn. “This university becomes more and more elite, and more and more just for the wealthy.”
Despite protests, the Board voted to approve a two per cent tuition increase for domestic students, a three per cent increase for continuing international students and a five per cent increase for new international students.
Ninety-two per cent of students also said they opposed these tuition proposals in the annual tuition engagement survey.
Chants of ‘How high is tuition? Too damn high!’ could be heard as the rally moved from outside the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre to outside the Robert H. Lee Family Boardroom, where the Board of Governors (BoG) was meeting.
A group of students also gathered in the atrium of the Nest to watch a livestream of the meeting.
In accordance with BC’s Tuition Limit Policy, the tuition increase was proposed as two per cent for domestic students. This policy does not include a provincial cap for international students, where tuition increase proposals were three per cent for continuing international students and five per cent for new international students.
At the meeting, governors in support of the motion said the tuition hike was a consequence of rising inflation rates across Canada. The latest inflation rate was reported as 7.8 per cent by the BC government. Some also said it was necessary to fund the university’s strategic and day-to-day operations.
“You can’t expect students to pay more money for the same level of service and then still have to pay more money for other goods and services because of the massive amount of inflation going on,” said graduate student Holly Chubb. “There’s no inflation of the student wages, there’s no inflation in what we’re given by UBC, they just keep taking more.”
Many other students at the protest echoed the struggle that they are already facing with the current tuition fees and cost of living crisis.
“I’m a full-time student but I’m also working 40 hours a week,” said international student Nate Toney. “Every year they raise tuition which is unsustainable and unfeasible for me.”
At one point, UBC food staff carried out a bowl of sliced fruit and cake, likely for the governors, eliciting 'Let them eat cake' chants from the crowd.
Yasmina Seifeddine, a coordinator at CJUBC, described how students are “milked for their money” and how “there’s only so much more we can take.”
A selection of students and organizers, including Seifeddine, were present in the meeting to express their objections but were asked to leave halfway through after they tried to read out an open letter during a discussion period.
When asked about the removal, Seifeddine said the students were told by the Board that they were not planning on letting any of the students in the room speak. According to section 2.1.1 of the BoG’s meeting rules, non-governors cannot speak unless given approval by the Chair in advance.
“People here are feeling shaky,” said Seifeddine. “It just felt so demeaning and so disrespectful that they shut us down really quick.”
The students were eventually let back into the meeting and one student was given permission to talk. When five students gave speeches when only one was approved to speak, Board chair Nancy McKenzie adjourned the meeting and asked for security to remove the students.
The students remained in the meeting room, where the meeting began again soon after.
"I do just want to take the time to thank everyone who has come out today to participate and to acknowledge the concerns that were raised and the commitment of the university to deal with the affordability issue," McKenzie said immediately after the vote as student protestors left the room in silence.
Despite the outcome, the spirit of the rally continued with students gathering and chanting after the vote. Hailey Yasmeen Dash, another CUPE 2278 organizer, said the group would continue “building student power."
Seifeddine echoed that sentiment.
“There’s so much work that is still left to be done.”
— With files from Charlotte Alden and Anabella McElroy
This article was updated at 11:11 a.m. on December 7. A previous version misspelled Yasmina Seifeddine's last name. The Ubyssey regrets this error.